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Adventures in Wildlife Photography

Napa, California: Another beautiful day in paradise! Again, we started our day on the trails in Kennedy Park. We must consistently exercise like mad if we are going to remain in this foodie heaven.

After running, I brought out my gianormous lens to snap photos of red winged blackbirds. The marshlands and reeds growing around the Napa River are a perfect home for this species and they are very plentiful.

And very pretty.

Trouble is - the birds are very, very, very black and very, very, very shiny and I am a very, very, very inexperienced photographer. I snapped red winged blackbirds on reeds, in trees and in pretty yellow wildflowers. I took photos of red winged blackbirds walking on the bike path. These photos are the only three even remotely decent.

The birds were singing and very busy eating.

And imagine, I only spent ONE HOUR taking photographs! It was a learning experience. I learned to not take photos of black birds in the full sun. At least it was a gorgeous day and we were in a pretty place and chatted-up many dogs (and their owners).

Just when I was getting really discouraged at the quality of shots I was capturing, this adorable little house finch perched right above my head and started singing his heart out.

Hey lady, why do you waste your time on those shiny black dudes when I am so much prettier and my song blows theirs off the charts?

Yo! Lady! Why take photos of stoopid birds at all when you have adorable puppies like me around? My owner adopted me from a shelter and she doesn't even know or care about my pedigree.

This pretty bird ignored the entire ordeal. He was just looking for lunch.

And the marsh is a virtual smorgasbord of bird-friendly luncheon items.

After showering, we headed out in search of lunch ourselves and drove back to St. Helena to dine at Tra Vigne. Tra Vigne is operated by Michael Chiarello, who also owns Bottega where we dined Sunday... and the NapaStyle stores/catalog... plus a TV show on the Food Network... plus a TV show on BRAVO... plus he is a cookbook author, has a line of foods, and owns a winery. Plus, plus, plus... Chiarello probably has his golden hands in all sorts of other stuff too.

Did I mention Chiarello is incredibly handsome?

This is the fourth time we have dined at Tra Vigne. Only once have we dined here in the evening - we seem to prefer the middle-of-the-day calm at the restaurant. Tra Vigne is in a beautiful brick building - with super high ceilings, a massive bar and a cozy enclosed patio for (mostly) wind-free dining.

Every time we dine at Tra Vigne (which translates from Italian to "amongst the vines") we order the Rosemary Pizzetta - a rosemary pizza crust served with roasted garlic, cambozola cheese, and drizzled with Dickson Ranch "Regina" olive oil.

Why?

Wouldn't you?

We also ordered another appetizer - Asparagus & Pecorino Cheese Budino. A budino is a savory cheese custard/pudding. The budino is served with balsamic-roasted cippolini onions, grilled asparagus and topped with shaved pecorino cheese.

We sampled these appetizers, but wanted a little something more. An entree each would have been too much... so we were discussing which entree to share when our waiter told us Tra Vigne offers half-portions of nearly every entree. Yeah! We are finding this more and more and love it more and more.

For example - look at this dish. Okay, it isn't the greatest photograph every taken, which seems to be the theme of the day, so ignore the obvious fact I am incapable of photographing any black object.

This is Tagliatelle Nero "Trio de Tonno". Or tagliatelle pasta made with squid ink served with three tunas. Under the pasta is tuna poached in olive oil, on top of the pasta is tuna tartare (aka sashimi) and bottarga (cured fish roe) is sprinkled on top. Complicated? Yes. Delicious? Yes. $18 menu item was $10 for a half-portion and I am going to suggest here a "half portion" is more like a "3/4 portion". Either way, it was plenty.

I don't need to mention DT ordered the tuna, do I?

I ordered the Spring Pea & Ricotta Ravioli - a vegetarian dish of ravioli topped with green garlic, spring peas in toasted sage brown butter with Castelmagno cheese (semi-hard cows milk cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy) sprinkled over the top. The half-portion included three plump ravioli, each about three inches long. Plenty of food.

In the end, we only brought home the pizzetta - everything else was finished! We really love this restaurant and highly recommend a visit.

We returned from lunch to watch the Mariners lose again. Blech. No dinner for us (except for the rest of the pizzetta). Until my next update, I remain, your photographically-challenged correspondent.

RV Park: 
 - Skyline Wilderness Park. This campground is operated by county. The 39 sites are cozy and on gravel. Some full hook-up 30/50-amp sites, but most sites are water and electric only. Bathhouse on-site, and a laundromat just a few blocks down the road. The park has miles of hiking and equestrian trails and actually has a path that leads one mile to the river where it joins the trails at Kennedy Park. Though very rural, this campground is just minutes to downtown Napa and would be a good choice if you are camping with kids. Dogs are allowed in the campground, but are not allowed on the trails. Strictly enforced!